by Clara Smith & Laura Streaman
In a vote of 3,874 to 1,508, Westfield defeated the $16.9 million bond referendum on Sept. 24. The bond referendum would have funded two projects: district-wide roof repairs and a lighted turf field. Both projects have been discussed and set as priorities for nearly a decade, according to westfield.patch.com.
Due to the age of most of the district’s buildings and the need for a safe and reliable area to host the increasing number of Westfield athletics, the BOE placed the proposed funding for the roof repairs and turf field together in a bond, according to westfieldnjk12.org.
BOE Member Mr. Mitch Slater said that 25 percent of eligible Westfield residents voted on the bond referendum last Monday and the turnout was higher than usual for a School Board election.
After the votes had been counted on Monday, Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said: “Our 6,300 students benefit from the decisions that are made on their behalf. The Facilities Committee of the Board of Education will meet to readdress the needs of our buildings and fields.”
The BOE met Oct. 2 to discuss the results of the referendum as well as to discuss and propose new plans for the roof repairs and turf field.
At the meeting, BOE President Mr. Richard Mattessich said that the bond failed for a number of reasons: the turf fields and roofs were bundled into one vote; the BOE wanted to undertake these projects out of operating budget dollars; the weak economy would make the field seem a luxury; the sense that taxes are already too high; and the grassroots efforts of some Westfield residents against the bond, among other things.
Within WHS, views were divided.
Said Supervisor of Athletics Ms. Sandy Mamary, “We have the highest standards academically, why shouldn’t we have the highest standards athletically?"
Junior Bernadette Latimer said: “[My family] didn’t like that the turf field was grouped in with the roofing and that the lights [would be left] on until late at night.”
Said senior boys soccer Tri-Captain Henry Smith, “The new turf field would have [made it] much easier to schedule games…where people would come out and support us.”
At the BOE meeting, Vice President Ms. Rosanne Kurstedt said that the current focus should be on the roof repairs since it is more urgent, but that the turf field project still needs to be addressed.
According to Mattessich, the BOE must notify the county by next week if they wish to go out to bond for roof repairs on Dec. 11.
He added, “If we do decide that we will proceed in December, we still need more time to decide how much we would request for the referendum.”
Mr. Mike Morris, maintenance department supervisor, said that 77 percent of district building roofs are leaking, but the top priority currently is replacing the roofs at WHS because it is where the most active leaks are.
Morris added, “It’s just a problem that keeps getting worse and worse.”
According to BOE secretary and Business Administrator Ms. Dana Sullivan, replacing the WHS roof would cost an estimated $4 million.
Despite little discussion about the turf field at the BOE meeting, Mattessich said, “the cold fact remains that our fields need work.”
Slater added: “Our community benefits when our school system thrives. Passing the bond…would have continued that excellence…. The turf field, albeit controversial, would have improved the brand of Westfield.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the Ms. Dana Sullivan is a BOE member. Her correct title is "Business Administrator and BOE secretary."
Also, an earlier version of this article quoted Dr. Dolan as saying: “Our 6,300 students benefit from the decisions that [voters make] on their behalf." This did not reflect the quote's original meaning and it has since been corrected.